6 min read

#70 – Through the looking glass

If climate change and 6500 dead migrant workers are all you see, look again.

We are at the end of dark November, and I know many people are struggling to deal with the state of the world. So what can you do to make life feel better?

A couple of years ago, I took the online course The Science of Wellbeing on Coursera. Run by Yale professor Laurie Santos as an online copy of her on-campus course, it is one of the most popular courses for Yale undergrads. It's more or less a scientifically based course on happiness in practice.

I recently went through some of the material again and realised how much it impacts how I act today. Five things I learned from the course that I still do today:

  1. Volunteer my time, preferably in ways where I get to use your strengths
  2. Practice gratitude (almost) daily and as a way to reframe bad things
  3. Prioritise time for real connections and conversations with people who are important to me or whom I find interesting
  4. Limit passive social media consumption
  5. Exercise or take a long walk (daily)

I recommend taking the entire online course. It's free and full of concrete exercises and tips. And as you can tell, the things you learn will stick with you for a long time.


Two Qatar World Cup apps pose severe privacy and security risks to users


The FIFA World Cup in Qatar begins today. From November 20 to December 18, the event expects 1.5 million visitors. But, the European privacy regulators warn that two official apps pose a massive privacy risk and tell football fans not to download them.

Qatar has asked all foreigners visiting the country to download the official World Cup app Hayya, which allows fans entrance to stadium grounds, schedule viewing, and free public transportation. Additionally, anyone visiting healthcare facilities will be required to download the infection-tracking app Ehteraz. Both apps track users' locations and have been labelled as "spyware" by experts because they provide the Qatari authorities with broad access to people's data and the power to read, delete or change content and even to make direct calls.

In a statement Tuesday, Germany's data protection commissioner said that the data collected by the two apps "goes much further" than what is indicated by the apps' privacy notices. The Norwegian and French data protection agencies have already issued similar advice. "One of the apps collects data on whether and with which number a telephone call is made," the German authority said. "The other app actively prevents the device on which it is installed from going into sleep mode. It is also obvious that the data used by the apps not only remain locally on the device but are also transmitted to a central server."

The privacy concern is only one interesting story related to the Qatar World Cup. Here are two other relevant headlines:

Apple plans to source chips from Arizona to reduce geopolitical risk


Apple plans to source semiconductor chips from Arizona to reduce some of the risks of being dependent on Asian production. The chips will come from the new fabrication plant that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) – the sole supplier of chips used in Apple iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers – is building outside Phoenix.

Apple CEO Tim Cook commented, "60% coming out of anywhere is probably not a strategic position." And while Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world, its continued success is highly dependent on access to semiconductors. And 90% of the world's semiconductors are made in Taiwan.

We already have a global semiconductor shortage, primarily initiated by covid-19 but also due to constantly increasing demand. However, the constant Chinese threat to invade its neighbouring island should be of top concern to any CEO dependent on semiconductors.

The new Phoenix site will produce 20,000 wafers of silicon chips per month. However, that's less than 1.6% of the 1.3 million chips TSMC makes monthly. And even if it adds another Arizona plant (as is expected), the US facility will be far from able to fill Apple's total orders.

However, the fact that Apple shifts some parts of its sourcing to Arizona will pave the way for other companies dependent on semiconductors, such as Qualcomm, AMD, and Nvidia, to move some of their production there as well. Like Apple, all of them likely want to diversify their sourcing needs.

COP27 negotiators reached loss and damage fund agreement on overtime


United Nations climate talks during COP27 were supposed to end Friday. But a deadlock over how to compensate developing nations already burdened by costly climate impacts made the summit run on overtime, reaching an agreement early this morning.

For many developing countries and small island states threatened by sea level rise – the defining issue at the conference is money for the "loss and damage" caused by climate-linked events, like floods, drought and sea-level rise. The idea of a loss and damage fund has been discussed for decades. Still, it has never made the official agenda at a climate summit as rich nations worried it could open them up to liability for their historic contribution to emissions.

While compensation to developing countries has been part of the negotiations this year, the idea of a loss and damage fund builds on a solidarity approach. All developed countries share the cost and responsibility for taking more ambitious action in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet, with war and inflation, some developed countries have hesitated to participate in a deal, and it is yet to be determined whether the world's two biggest economies and polluters - China and the United States - would sign on. This resistance has put the deal in limbo—if the two biggest polluters do not take responsibility, why should other countries?

Officials from the European Union said they were ready to walk away from the talks if the deal did not advance efforts to curb global warming by requiring that countries take more ambitious action in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. "We'd rather have no decision than a bad decision," EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said.

Early this morning, countries adopted a hard-fought final agreement that sets up a fund to help poor countries being battered by climate disasters - but it does not boost efforts to tackle the emissions causing them. Also, the fact that the summit was running on overtime still left many of the most controversial decisions on the fund until next year, including who should pay into it.

Double-check the headlines

Just making sure you didn't miss any major world events this week.

One long

MIT Technology Review

Tencent wants you to pay with your palm. What could go wrong?

Recent technological advances have enabled Chinese companies to use palm-print recognition technology in everyday settings. But they still need to answer looming ethical and practical questions.

Five short

1. Read

I just finished reading The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and I loved it.

2. Listen

The soundtrack from the second Black Panter movie Wakanda Forever is worth a listen. And sure, the film has received good reviews too.

3. Remember

It is possible not to watch the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

4. Change

Do you want to understand how to make gift-giving more sustainable ahead of the holidays? It's not an all-or-nothing case. And this Anticonsumption guide to relatives who are big into gift giving has a lot of great tips.

5. Try

Creating a "second brain" is popular among productivity YouTubers. Fundamentally, it is about making sure you structure everything you know and learn in a system where things are easy to retrieve in the future. It builds loosely on the Zettelkasten Method for notetaking – where you make sure notes on similar topics are connected.

I use Zettelkasten, with Obsidian, as my tool of choice. I like it a lot because it makes me write down the small clever ideas I always think I will remember but never do. And when I find them later, I can expand on them or connect them to other thoughts on the topic. It also keeps my notes stored as individual markdown files, taking up very little space on my hard drive.